Toward the end of First Friday, the monthly Republican luncheon for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, my former pastor rose from his chair and asked the audience how many of them feared radical Islam. Although I couldn’t see the entire group, I believe that everyone in attendance raised their hands…with the exception of me and the fellow sitting beside me.
Now, that’s not to say that I am not at all concerned about terrorists who commit terrible acts on behalf of their religion, but I do not wake up every morning worried about what these radicals will do in our country nor am I concerned that some or all of my Muslim neighbors (supposedly about 7% of the Harrisonburg population) will rise up and begin killing or enslaving the rest of us. According the news that I’ve heard in the last several years, it seems more likely that local Muslim property will be vandalized by non-Muslims due to religious disagreements than the other way around.
As we all know, as a result of the actions of some radical Muslims on 9/11, many Americans have been living in fear of this religion and those who practice it. Although there were some vague mentions of Islam before 9/11, I don’t recall it being particularly pronounced and when it was, it could be disregarded as religious bigotry.
Unfortunately, due to the fear generated against radical Islam, our citizens and our lawmakers have surrendered many of our civil liberties and greatly expanded the power of the federal government through legislation like the Patriot Act and new government agencies like the TSA and Department of Homeland Security. Patrick Henry’s famous cry of “give me liberty or give me death!” has been replaced with “do everything you can to keep me safe! I don’t mind if you take away our liberty!”
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Our government has both the right and responsibility to keep its people safe from all threats, including those posed by radical Islam. Any person, group, agency, or government who seeks to deprive any American citizen of his or her life, liberty, and/or property without the due process of law must be held to account.
Have we become so hyper-sensitized to an over-imagined threat of radical Islam on American soil that we have forgotten that it has supposedly been the longstanding policy of conservatives to push back against growing government power? Yes, it is hypothetically possible that terrorists hiding in caves in the Middle East can deprive us of our lives, and I certainly don’t want that to happen to anyone, but it is also quite true that the legislators in Washington D.C. and our state capitols, not to mention black robed men and women in our court system, have been slowing eroding our liberties, taking more and more of our tax dollars, deciding what does and does not constitute as free speech, degrading our religion, imprisoning people for years without trial, and even depriving some people of their lives through the use of drones. Politicians are marching us toward a police state. Which of these two actions, in the grand scheme of our nation, poses the greater and more pressing danger to our well-being?
As President George W. Bush stated on September 20th, 2001, “They [the terrorists] hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” Well friends, if we have taken away our freedoms and replaced them with fear, then who can make the argument that the terrorists have not won? If the terrorists are as irrational and hate-filled as our leaders claim, why in the world would we ever want a citizenry or a government which emulates them?
Yes, we must not allow radical Islam to succeed. Stand firm against evil! But, I urge you too to resist the call to surrender to fear!